Our Readers' Opinions
April 28, 2006
Learn to read, pass or leave!


EDITOR: I am rather amused that the Ministry of Education has suddenly seen it fit to address the problems of literacy in our primary schools. I am also shocked that no one has admitted that the problem pervades not just Grade 2, but all classes in the primary system, and to a lesser extent has wormed its way into our secondary schools.

Some years ago, one smart Education Minister informed primary school children that the poor teachers who managed them, had absolutely no authority to flog them. A few years later, the Ministry of Education in its wisdom informed the same school children, they need not pass their exams to be promoted, but once their age went up, teacher had to put them up.{{more}}

Send a deaf, blind and mute child to the traditional primary school these days, he comes home at the end of the school year with a “C” pass in his report. The parent no longer has any need to get a rod and review the test paper. Rather he/she simply asks “which class they promote the fool to now?”

Parents rush to the Ministry for redress once they perceive the vaguest incidence of teacher abuse. None has confronted the Ministry and demand it prepare a curriculum for any child they themselves label a moron.

Create a profile

I dare the Ministry of Education to permit teachers to collect data on an Ministry of Education designated questionnaire, targeting parents so as to create a profile of parents of slow and poor readers, even school drop-outs in this age of compulsory education.

This should not prove difficult since the Ministry boasts the know-how and commands the resources to prepare and administer such a questionnaire.

The Ministry of Education may decode the data and institute plans to address such issues as housing, income, parental responsibility, interest, literacy, lifestyle and values of parents; attitude, street sense, vulgarity and taste for certain TV shows or movies among children; complacency, cronyism and mediocrity among the teaching staff and the Ministry of Education.

The Ministry may also gauge societal interaction with the aforementioned stakeholders, as well as the tolerance and affinity for ignorance to which many of our people simply subscribe. Merit is akin to some anachronism of our times, and people who dare to see clearly pay a heavy price for rustling pseudo scared feathers.

What are the expectations of each group? Are their projections static? Or do they change with the times?

People say guava doh bring lime. Take a group of functionally illiterate parents and their offspring who somehow seem to inherit their poor attitude. Place these children in the care of any weak/poor link of a teaching staff which is less than dedicated, which itself fails to receive prompt support of the Ministry of Education and confusion results. Even lime wouldn’t bring lime if the environment does not so permit. By some strange paradox of our times, society seems to derive a kick out of students who perform below par and who claim they require drugs to concentrate.

Let me, in closing, challenge the Ministry of Education to reward teachers who mould students through those first three years with some monetary bonus. Conversely, it may quadruple its input into the privately run pre-school system.

The Ministry of Education needs to review policies which while not backward, prove quite unproductive.

Perhaps too, the Ministry of Education should order its officials to attend schools’ P.T.As, and bring back a written report especially highlighting the officials’ contribution.

These officials with their great wisdom would know how to transform illiterate parents, who in their state of denial, dare not help the school child lest the child realize how stupid he/she is. At this point, let me hasten to congratulate those parents who have gravitated to the National Literacy Programme so as to help themselves and their children.

I urge the Ministry of Education to adopt a policy shift, and inform parents their children may leave school, with gray hair at Grade K, unless they pass the test. The parent may then start to attend church and pray for some miraculous intervention.